Arusha, October 7, 2013 (FH) – Charges against Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto and journalist Joshua Sang before the International Criminal Court (ICC) relate notably to a massacre on January 1, 2008 at Kiambaa church, where many ethnic Kikuyus had taken refuge.

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The two men, who have been on trial since September 10, are charged with crimes against humanity committed during 2007- 2008 post-election violence, including murder, deportation or forcible transfer of population and persecution.  

Whilst the world was celebrating the New Year, the rural church south of Eldoret in the Rift Valley was sealed off from outside and set alight. According to the ICC Prosecutor, between 17 and 35 people were burned to death. The ICC prosecution accuses Ruto, who was at that time Member of Parliament for Eldoret, of playing a major role in creating and directing the group that attacked the church. He is accused of participating in the organization of criminal activities by a “network” of youth from his Kalenjin ethnic group. For the presidential elections at the end of 2007, Ruto supported opposition candidate Raila Odinga against the incumbent president Mwai Kibaki. Kibaki belongs to the Kikuyu ethnic group, while Odinga is Luo.

According to the prosecution, Ruto wanted to wipe the Kikuyu out of the Rift Valley. He was allegedly helped in this plan by a popular, local language radio show hosted by Sang, who is also Kalenjin. Sang, a well known journalist at Kass FM, is accused of broadcasting calls before the elections to hunt down Kikuyus. He allegedly said that “if Kibaki wins, we will do our work”, meaning, according to the prosecution, chase out and kill Kikuyus.  After the massacres started, Sang is also accused of signaling to the “network” several times where Kikuyus were hiding.

The 2007-2008 post-election violence left more than a thousand people dead across Kenya and more than 600, 000 displaced, some of whom have still not returned to their homes.

Ruto and Sang, both staunch Christians, both protest their innocence, including saying they have family members married to Kikuyus. As the trial opened on September 10, Sang told the court he had contributed to peace, not to violence.